With such a successful launch of the Lacada beer in October of this year I was thrilled to hear that we would be showcasing our range at the CAMRA Beer & Cider Festival held at the Ulster Hall in the centre of Belfast from Thursday 19th - Saturday 21st November.
This annual event showcases real ales and ciders from the four corners of the UK and NI and from what I had heard from past attendees is a chance for beer geeks far and wide to critique, quaff, drink and be merry. So naturally I was intrigued and felt no better reason to escape the drudgery of work than attending the festival.
I had visited the brewery weeks before the event and watched in curiosity as Laurie and Phil prepared the firkins of ale, these were to be left in the brewery’s warm room to condition in anticipation for the masses. The day had been marked with a big red X in the diary and the time had come for rounding up as many co-owners as possible for this boozy pilgrimage.
The 'Lacada Armada' set sail for Belfast on the Thursday morning, the first day of the event, with the clear intention of tasting as many types of ales as possible. Well that was my intention anyway and much to the bemusement of the others I was armed with a printed list of the ales, all rated with several highlighted as 'must try'.
Having arrived in Belfast early afternoon we filled our fuel tanks with grub from the City Hall market and headed around the corner to the venue for liquid refreshment...let the quaffing commence forsooth!
The stillage was a sight to behold, the tower of firkins stood centre place in the Hall rising up towards the ceiling holding upwards of 90 ales, 26 of which were locally brewed. Wrapped around this was a bar with an unending array of pumps. It was great to see the Lacada pumps as soon as you walked through the door, they couldn’t have been placed in a better position.
The Lacadians rallied and began the marathon quaff! At one stage Heather (our chairperson) was in one corner doing a media interview and Laurie in another deep in conversation with other brewers from Farmageddon and Hillstown in what eventually got coined as 'brewers’ corner'... literally a corner of the bar! All the while another co-owner Roy Willighan was doing his best behind the bar to aid in the quenching of everybody’s thirst.
I made my way through about 20 different beers some excellent some not so excellent. All 3 of the Lacada range tasted fantastic (not biased in anyway) other favourites of mine were the Darkstar range, deliciously hoppy and well balanced, the Farmageddon Mosaic IPA and the Salopian Oracle.
The eventual winner decided by the CAMRA representatives was the Elland 1872 Porter a fantastic rich complex number with coffee and choc flavours, well deserved, I gotta say though (again not being biased!) Lacada’s Stranded Bunny Porter tasted as good if not better than the winner.
Having sampled as many beers as the belly and mind would allow some of us headed back to the North Coast, and so it was up anchor and homeward bound, a fantastic day’s revelry was had by all.
It was great to hear really strong, positive feedback from strangers and CAMRA reps alike about the Lacada range and how well they tasted. Proof being that all six firkins were sold out by the Saturday, a resounding success I would say.
Onwards and upwards.
Neil "Hamy" Hamilton